If an expedition cruise on the Amazon River takes pride of place on your travel bucket list you’ll have a lot of important decisions to make when researching and planning your adventure. So, check out our two-minute guide for answers to the top questions about cruising the Amazon River.
There are three key questions you will need to answer when working out which Amazon River cruise will best suit you:
· Which part of the Amazon to focus on?
· Which river ship to select?
· High or low water itineraries
Here’s all the expert advice you need.
Which Part of the Amazon River to Cruise?
Did you know that the Amazon River and its tributaries flow for 6,437 kilometres through six countries before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean? That’s a lot of river to explore, however the best expedition and river ships concentrate on exploring three main areas of the Amazon region; In Peru, a section of the river near Iquitos, Brazil’s Amazon near Manaus, and the Napo River (a tributary of the Amazon) in Ecuador.
Whilst there is not a lot of difference between the scenery, flora and fauna and wildlife in each region, there are some considerations to make.
Firstly, the Brazilian Amazon River is the widest and most commercially developed. You’ll see lots of boat traffic and also be sharing the river with large cruise ships carrying thousands of travellers. Most Brazilian cruises depart from Manaus, a heaving city of more than two million, and expeditions often include stops in other local communities such as Santarem and Parintins. Brazilian Amazon itineraries are considered to place more emphasis on people and cultures than similar cruises in Peru or Ecuador, which tend to be very focused on nature and wildlife.
The major drawcard of a Brazilian Amazon cruise is the ‘Meeting of the Waters’, near Manaus, where two major tributaries - the light brown Solimoes River and the blackwater Negro River - come together and run alongside each other for several miles without merging.
The Peruvian section of the Amazon is quieter and less developed than the Brazilian section, and also has some of the most luxurious ships to choose from. Most options sail out of the small city of Iquitos (a short flight from Lima), or the nearby town of Nauta. There are no scheduled port stops on these cruises; instead the ships ply the tranquil waters of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, with the itinerary changing from trip to trip to take advantage of water levels and wildlife viewing opportunities. Of course, one of the great things about choosing an Amazon cruise in Peru is that you can easily combine your trip with visits to two of Peru’s other world famous sites; the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
The third region where you can consider a cruise is Ecuador. A couple of operators run expeditions into Yasuni National Park, which is located on the Napo River, one of the tributaries of the Amazon River proper. Highlights of the cruise include fantastic wildlife viewing, including clay licks that attract thousands of colourful parrots and macaws. If this option is appealing to you, why not combine your Amazon cruise with an expedition in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands – speak to our expedition cruise specialists for more details!
Which Amazon River ships are best?
After you’ve chosen which part of the Amazon you want to concentrate on, it’s then a matter of choosing the best ship. But it can be hard to differentiate between all the various choices and that’s where the expert team at Expedition Cruise Specialists comes in.
We’ve done all the hard work for you and selected just the very best ships in each region. That means you can rest assured that you will be travelling with an experienced operator, with the best guides, relevant accreditations and safety standards and of course the highest quality ships. Here’s the river ships we recommend for Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.
The 16-passenger motor yacht Tucano was built in the tradition of the steamboats that navigated the Amazon in the late 19th century. Tucano is not a luxury vessel like some of its counterparts in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, and some of the cabins are larger than the others, but most travellers agree that the boat is comfortable and elegant. Tucano prides itself on offering the most authentic experience in the Brazilian Amazon and Rio Negro.
4 & 5 day expeditions
The Delfin fleet of three ships offers something for everyone. Our favourite is the intimate eight passenger Delfin I, check out those jaw-dropping cabins! The Delfin II and III are larger vessels, accommodating around 40 guests each and also provide an outstanding expeditions into the heart of Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
4, 5 & 8 day expeditions
The 32 passenger Aria Amazon was designed by famed Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. The word that best describes this ship is ‘style’. Aria Amazon features extremely generous dining and lounging areas, including an outdoor river facing jacuzzi. Floor to ceiling windows face the Amazon River in the ship’s 16 Design Suites, each measuring 23 square metres (250 square feet).
4, 5 & 8 day expeditions
The 40-passenger Anakonda riverboat is the only luxury boutique Amazon cruise winding its way through Ecuador's 'El Oriente' Amazon region. Anakonda features an expansive observation deck complete with loungers and an outdoor Jacuzzi. A comfortable al fresco lounge offers panoramic views along the river and is an ideal spot for cocktails, relaxation, reading or simply enjoying the view. Anakonda's expert naturalist guides and special travel concierge go out of their way to ensure you a personalised cruise experience.
When to cruise the Amazon? High or Low Water Itineraries
The time of year you cruise the Amazon can have a large bearing on what you can expect to see. The reality is, that being in the rainforest you can expect regular rainfall, which is why we no longer call the two seasons the “wet” and the “dry”. Instead, we can look at the seasons as either “high water” (January to May) or “low water” (the rest of the year).
If travelling in the “high water” period, you can expect to see many birds and monkeys in the branches of the flowering trees lining the river banks, attracted by fruits and blooming flowers after the major tropical downpours. Given the landscapes may be flooded and quite wet, you might expect to spend less time hiking ashore during this period.
After the major tropical storms have subsided, the river waters again begin to subside, and the ‘low water season’ means travellers can expect to see the sandy beaches that line the Amazon, and enjoy plenty of opportunity to travel ashore with local guides to explore on foot.
Are you interested in learning more about Amazon River cruising options? Call the expert team at Expedition cruise Specialists today on 1800 900 20 80 (or +61 7 4041 2101 if calling from outside Australia) for more tips and advice.
Want more? Read our blog ranking the Amazon River’s Most Luxurious Cruise Cabins.
Images supplied by Tucano, Aqua Expeditions, Delfin Amazon Cruises and Anakonda Amazon Cruises